Big rigs, cargo trucks and construction vehicles in America aren’t typically decorated with anything besides dirt and road grime. Some may add a saucy mudflap or a few extra lights, but that’s nothing compared to the work trucks of Pakistan. Regular, everyday work vehicles are covered in unbelievably intricate paintings and sculptures. Behold: the “Jingle Trucks” of Pakistan.
These vehicles are not only gorgeous, they also tell a story. Mountains, flowers, and Pakistani military generals are popular fixtures in the colorful murals you might see, but each one is pretty much unique to its owner.
Jingle Trucks, a designation allegedly bestowed on the machines by visiting military contractors, are decorated with elaborate crowns on top of the truck bed known as a taj. Elaborate paintings, woodwork and hand-crafted ornaments are used as a way to show the driver’s interests, passions and sense of pride. Not only are these vehicles a form of self-expression, according to Muhammad Shafi, a local truck artist we talked to, they are also a means to promote the driver. The nicer or more interesting your truck looks, the higher the chances of you landing that job as a driver and grow your business.
Naturally, there’s some competition between drivers, and each of their Jingle Trucks act like competing billboards.
This local cultural tradition has been around since the 1920s, basically going back to when the first Bedford cargo trucks were imported from England. According to Shafi, who has been developing his craft since he was only 12 years old, this trend is still getting more popular all the time.
In the city of Karachi alone, some 50,000 people work in shops dedicated to creating and maintaining Jingle Trucks, as reported by MyModernMet, which also reported that some truckers pay $2,500, apparently two years’ salary, for even a “basic” paint job.